SEO is a term that you hear about soon after you start looking for ways to get more traffic to your website.
Yet it can be confusing: what does SEO actually stand for?
In this post, I’ll explain what SEO means as well as what what you need to know to start making SEO improvements to your site.
SEO is an acronym that refers to search engine optimization.
As the term clearly states, it refers to the practice of optimizing – or improving – your website for the search engines.
Basically, it means implementing certain techniques that will make it easier for search engines to understand what your site is about.
If the search engines can understand what you’re site is about, it makes it easier for them to show it in the results when someone searches for a particular word or phrase online.
It’s worth noting that SEO focuses on only organic search results. A whole different field – search engine marketing (SEM) – exists for showing up in the search results with paid ads.
The image below shows how the paid ads show in up the Google search results; they’re usually at the top of the page or to the right-hand side. They will also say “Ad” at the beginning.
The results that don’t say “Ad” are the ones that show up organically, meaning that no one is paying to have their website show up there. SEO focuses on practices that will help your website show up in the organic search results.
Why is SEO Important for Business?
SEO is important because most of us rely on online searches to help us find what we’re looking for.
If we type in a search like “how to eat healthy,” we expect to find results that are relevant. We expect to find a site that provides us with information about how to eat healthy.
Your prospective clients are doing the same thing. They’re typing in search queries related to your services.
You want to make sure that when they do that, they will see your website in the search results. If you show up in the search results, you’ll get more traffic to your website. And once you get traffic, you’ll be able to have people contact you about services or sign up for your email list.
How Do I Do SEO For My Website?
To effectively use SEO involves understanding that each of your website pages and blog posts should be focused on a keyword, and that keyword should be used in certain places on your blog.
For example, the page title is a high-value location for SEO because the search engines use this as an important clue when deciding what pages to serve up in the search results. In the case of this blog post, the page title – “What does SEO Stand For?” – indicates that this post will talk about what SEO is. As a result, it should show up in search results when people search for this term (that’s probably how you found this post!).
Here are a few best practices when it comes to SEO that you can easily implement:
- One keyword per post: Try to optimize each of your posts around one keyword. Instead of targeting multiple keywords in one post, keep each of your blog posts tightly focused on one topic.
- Keywords in page titles: As was just discussed, this is an important one! Be sure to include your keyword in the title of your blog posts.
- Keywords in the URL: The URL is the link for your blog post. Having the keyword that you’re targeting in the URL is a good practice.
- Keywords in the meta descriptions: The meta descriptions are the short bits of text that appear in the search results. Although these do not directly impact your search results (Google has said that it’s not part of their search algorithm), they are important for users. A well-written meta description that uses your keyword can influence a user to click on your link.
- Keywords in image alt descriptions: You can include descriptions for the images on your blog. Since the search engines have a difficult time knowing what an image is showing, these descriptions will tell the search engines what your image is about.
If you’re using WordPress, I recommend that you use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. It will help you to optimize your post from within your WordPress dashboard, and it’s quite easy to use.
How Do I Choose the Right Keywords?
Keyword research is an art unto itself. Be aware that a tremendous amount of data and paid tools are available online to help you learn about and do keyword research, and what I offer here are just a couple of steps to get you started.
First, start by thinking about what your post will be about. Come up with a few keywords that capture the topic of your post. Be sure to put yourself in the mind of your ideal client and use the search terms that they might use. If you’re using Google Analytics, you can take a look at your traffic sources to get some ideas.
Then use Google’s Keyword Tool (you’ll need to sign up for a free Adwords account). Type in the keywords that you’re thinking of using, and be sure to check “[exact]” or “phrase” as the Match Type because you’ll get the most relevant results for your keyword. Click on the “Keyword Ideas” tab and then look at the search results. Look at both the “Competition” (how competitive the search term is) and “Local Monthly Searches” (this represents search volume in the U.S.). The sweet spot that you’re looking for is low competition and high search volume – this means that a lot of people are searching for this term yet there’s not a lot of competition for it. When you find that keyword, it should be a good one for you to use.
Getting Started with SEO
If you use these tips to find good keywords to target and then follow a few best practices to optimize your posts, you’ll be well ahead of those who are not optimizing their sites effectively.
However, it’s important to remember that good SEO is about more than just keywords. In fact, if you’re a small business owner, there’s a lot that you should know about SEO, especially, about the role of good content. Ultimately, writing for your audience is more important than focusing on keywords.
If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, check out the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’s a great resource, and you’ll learn a lot!